Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits' adjustments knock Heber off its perch

Leader sports editor

The 4A-2 Conference is a mess in boys basketball, and Lonoke has played a huge role in making that mess. The Jackrabbits further cluttered the field by traveling to league-leading Heber Springs on Friday and knocking off the Panthers 52-40.

Brenton Bryant started in place of senior point guard Tykel Gray, who has been ill. The sophomore came through with two big shots to open each of the halves. After falling behind and going into the second quarter trailing 16-12, Lonoke outscored Heber 14-10 in the second quarter to send the game into halftime tied at 26.
That’s when adjustments took place, especially defensively.

“We didn’t really adjust defenses, we just adjusted how we played our man defense,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “It was really more of a re-focusing on what we had worked on in practice. Heber does a really good job with their motion offense. They get you to chasing and can pull you away from the ball. We had to rethink, are they just running us out of the play here? We did a much better job of staying in position and taking away easy baskets in the second quarter. We talk about those things all the time, but when you get in a game and start flying around, it’s sometimes easy to forget.”

The refocusing led to holding the high-scoring Panthers to just 14 points in the second half. Lonoke also gave up only 14 points in the paint and three offensive rebounds, something the Jackrabbits have struggled with this season.

“We definitely did a better job of taking care of the lane and forcing them to shoot jump shots,” Campbell said. “And rebounding has been an Achilles’ heel for us. But we only gave up four second-chance points. That’s important. That’s what got us beat in a couple of games. So you can see what taking care of that will do for you.”

The game’s results leaves Dollarway alone atop the conference standings at 5-1. The one loss was a 20-point loss to Heber Springs. Lonoke, Heber Springs and Newport are all 4-2 with the Greyhounds owning wins over the other two second-place teams. Newport’s losses were to Dollarway and Stuttgart.

“There’s no doubt everything is still up for grabs in this conference,” Campbell said. “It’s probably going to come down to the very last week the way things are shaking out so far.”

Senior post player Blake Mack led Lonoke with 19 points while Jamel Rankin added 12.

The Jackrabbits hosted Dollarway on Tuesday in another big matchup. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. They will travel to Clinton on Friday.